Gnocchi is one of my favourite forms of pasta, and I always used to buy packages of it at the store because I assumed it was one of those things that would be impossible to make on your own. But when I started to get into cooking and reading recipes, I realized that gnocchi didn’t require any special equipment and actually didn’t sound too hard to make. When I finally worked up the courage to try it, I was thrilled – not only was it really easy to make, but it tasted amazing!
I recently had some leftover mashed sweet potato from making sweet potato bread, so I decided to try using it to make sweet potato gnocchi. Since I got to skip the step for making the mash, which is probably the most time consuming part of the gnocchi, it didn’t take long before I had a bunch of adorable little gnocchi ready to be cooked – and the cooking part also takes very little time.
For those who aren’t convinced that making your own gnocchi is worth the effort, I took some pictures to show how easy it is (just excuse the bad lighting)! Once you have your mashed sweet potato, mix it up with some flour, egg, and a pinch of salt and nutmeg, then roll it into long skinny ropes. The dough will be really sticky, so make sure you have a well floured surface and hands (I use my handy pastry mat, which makes clean-up much easier). Just be careful not to add too much extra flour to the dough or it will be tough. Once you have your ropes, just take a sharp knife and cut the ropes into little gnocchi-sized pieces.
If you want, you can just leave them as is, then throw them in a pot of water to cook (how easy is that?!), but I like to add ridges to the gnocchi first so they catch the sauce better. Most people just roll the gnocchi over the back of a fork to make ridges, but I like using the inside curve of the fork – it doesn’t matter, just do whatever works for you. I rolled the gnocchi over the tines of the fork then pinched the edges together, as shown in the pictures.
Once your gnocchi is ready, all you have to do is throw them in a pot of simmering water, and once they float to the surface, they’re done! I heard Rachael Ray describing this stage of gnocchi-making on her show as putting the little guys in the hot tub for a soak and I thought that was pretty funny. I like to pretend I’m rescuing the gnocchi from the hot water whenever they pop to the surface for help and I scoop them out to safety. Making gnocchi should be fun!
When it comes to sauce, pretty much every recipe for sweet potato or pumpkin gnocchi calls for a browned butter sauce, often with sage. This is because any other sauce tends to overpower the taste of the sweet potato or pumpkin in the gnocchi. I went with this idea and made a browned butter cinnamon sauce for my first batch of gnocchi, which was delicious, but didn't exactly make for a healthy dinner.
I still had a handful of gnocchi left, so for lunch the next day I tossed them with some jarred marinara sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan. And guess what? That version ended up being my favourite! It did overpower the sweet potato, so it just tasted like you were eating regular gnocchi, but to me there’s nothing wrong that that! I love regular gnocchi, and this was just like a healthier version of it by replacing the potato with sweet potato! I didn’t think to take a picture until I was almost done, but you get the idea:
The lesson learned is that if you want to highlight the flavour of the gnocchi, go with the popular browned butter sauce, and it will be delicious. If you want a classic plain gnocchi flavour, then use a tomato sauce. Or you can always try to be adventurous and try something completely different like I did with the curry sauce, but just be prepared with a backup plan!
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Gnocchi adapted from Macheesmo
1 medium sweet potato (about 1 cup mashed)
3/4 to 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 an egg (whisk one egg, then divide into two – reserve other half for another use or discard)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of nutmeg
Peel the sweet potato and cut into chunks. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the sweet potato cubes and simmer about 15 minutes, until tender. Rinse with cold water and drain well, then transfer to a bowl and mash the sweet potatoes with a fork. Let cool to room temperature.
Add the egg, salt and nutmeg to the sweet potatoes and mix well. Slowly add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, until dough starts to come together. Stop when you have a soft dough that’s slightly sticky but manageable.
Coat your hands and a flat surface with flour. Divide dough into two and roll each half into a long, even rope, about 1/2 to 1 inch thick.
Cut each rope into 1/2 inch pieces. Take each piece and roll it over the tines of a fork to form ridges, if desired. (See pictures above for instructions)
Bring a large pot of water to a gentle simmer (not a boil). Add gnocchi to the water. Once they float to the top that means they're ready, so remove them with a slotted spoon.
Browned Butter Cinnamon Sauce
While gnocchi are cooking, add desired amount of butter to a small pan and heat over medium heat (I used about a tablespoon of butter for one serving). The butter will start to foam, and once that foam turns brown, it’s ready (about 5 minutes) - don't cook longer than this point or the butter will burn. Add a pinch of cinnamon to the butter and mix, then toss with the gnocchi.